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The Process - "Forged in Dragon Flames"

So how do I make custom inlay for a specific ring?

The first step is for a client to select the materials they want for the piece. In the case of "Forged in Dragon Flames," the client selected Crimson and Black Emerald Opals set in a three channel black ceramic ring. I then source the materials from a variety of suppliers.

Once the materials have arrived, I then take photographs of the materials to see if they meet the client's expectations.

I also include several other choices based on the materials I have on hand, to see if another color combination suits the customer's vision better. In this case I added six different combinations in the photos, including Crimson and Inferno. The customer decided he liked this combination better than the original material selection.

Once the materials have been selected, I do a polished test inlay to see if the color combination looks the way the client wants prior to inlaying the entire blank. I have a number of test blanks I use for this purpose, in a variety of materials. The final result doesn't have to be perfect, but I do want it to give the client some idea of what the final product will look like.

I then take photos of the example and send them to the client for a decision.

In this case, the client decided he liked the Dragon Scale and Crimson, so I put the sample inlay in an acetone bath, and did the first inlay on the selected blank. In this case, it was a black ceramic three channel 10mm in size 12.5.

Next, I do the initial rough file with a metal file. This step reveals areas where the bonding agent was weak, and reveals hidden gaps in the inlay.

Once the gaps are visible, I do the second inlay to ensure the stones are packed as tightly as possible, and then fill in all the cracks with Cyanoacrylate Adhesive.

Once the Cyanoacrylate Adhesive (CA) has cured for at least twelve hours, I perform the second rough filing.

Provided there are no additional gaps, next I start the laborious process of sanding. I use 120, 220, 320, 400 and 600 grit sandpaper to sand the surface of the stones. I also use an Xacto knife to remove any excess adhesive sticking to the core.

Once that step is complete, I stop the process and inspect the piece under bright light and a magnifier. I'm looking for inclusions, bubbles, pinpoint holes, or cloudy spots.

If I find these imperfections (and I aways do on the first round), then I dig them out and fill in the gaps with stone chips and/or CA.

From here it's very much a case of "lather, rinse, repeat." I sand/file using a small file and various grits of sandpaper, inspect, identify imperfections, dig out, fill, repeat. Depending on the material, I will process the ring in this way as many times as necessary to ensure it looks the way I want it to look. In this case, I performed this cycle 4 times.

Once I have the sanding completed and I can no longer spot any imperfections, I move on to polishing. For each ring, I use Wet Micron Graded Polishing Paper in 30/600, 15/1,200, 9/1,800, 3/8,000, 2/10,600 and 1/22,000.

When polishing is complete, I perform a final inspection to ensure there are no areas of the inlay I don't like. For this ring, I found one cloudy area that I dug out, set a stone, and then filed, sanded and polished the spot.

Here is the final result:

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